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Judicial Misconduct in California

NCJ Number
San Fernando Valley Law Review Volume: 11 Dated: (1983) Pages: 43-69
C A Lewis
Date Published
27 pages
This paper examines the Californian system for removal of judges for misconduct. It concludes that California judges have been removed from the bench only for the most flagrant sorts of misconduct.
In 1960, California voters approved a constitutional ammendment creating the California Commission on Judicial creating the California Commission on Judicial Qualifications, the first board in the country whose purpose was to investigate complaints of misconduct. It receives, considers, and investigates complaints and if warranted, recommends that California Supreme Court order public censure or removal of the judge from the bench. Ammendments since 1960 have enhanced the commission's powers and resulted in a name change to the Commission on Judicial Performance. Major issues arising from case law on judicial misconduct have included the meaning of bad faith, the addition of charges during hearing, confidentiality of commission proceedings, the imposition of harsher sanctions than those recommended by the commission, factors considered in mitigation of punishment, and speech as misconduct. The commission is accomplishing its goal of eliminating unfit judges from the bench. Although the California Supreme Court is rarely asked to remove a judge from office, scores of judges under commission investigation have resigned voluntarily rather than petition for court hearing. Recommendations for improving the overall system are offered. A total of 123 footnotes are provided.